Time- and labor-saving ingredients are a boon to any operator trying to keep operating costs in check and keep kitchen throughput high. Here are five readily available items that can satisfy both those requirements in applications across the menu:
1. Ready-made broths and stocks.
These flavor concentrates take the guesswork out of many recipes, allowing a harried or less-skilled staff to produce well-seasoned and flavorful soups and sauces quickly with little effort. Flavor bases can find their way into gravies, dipping sauces and salad dressings as well. Shelf-stable stocks—chicken, vegetable and beef— are not only becoming healthier time savers, but also boost the flavor of vegetable dishes and grains, pastas and more. Having vegetable stock in particular can be a life saver for a meat-centric restaurant serving the occasional vegetarian.
2. Tinned seafood.
Shelf-stable tuna and seafood are common at many restaurants. But the availability and wide variety of tinned seafood opens up a whole new universe of menu possibilities. Chefs have embraced anchovies—the umami-packed key ingredient in Caesar salad dressing, among other things—in multiple menu applications: in pasta to pates; atop burgers or bruschetta; to amp up the flavor of beef; in tapenades and more. Similarly, smoked sardines are a perennial favorite “secret ingredient” that chefs use to layer on more flavor in meats, salad dressings, vegetable dishes and other applications.
3. Strong coffee.
Marc Murphy, chef and owner of New York-based Benchmarc Restaurants, likes the versatility of a deceptively simple ingredient: espresso. His restaurants brew it for drinking, of course, but it also adds a flavor layer to items like chocolate mousse and meat marinades—the latter as a tenderizer as well as a flavor enhancer. Powdered or liquid espresso can kick up the flavor of brownies and other desserts, add some zing to glazes and frostings, or provide an interesting flavor note in chili.
4. Already-reduced cooking cream.
Because it’s already reduced, this ingredient cuts down on time and labor, offers a higher yield than conventional cream and is more stable in recipes. Dishes like macaroni and cheese or pasta alfredo can be prepared in advance and maintain quality without special handling. It also stands up to acidic ingredients. It’s the perfect base for indulgent sauces or dips and adds a delicious richness without any extra work – or extra calories. In fact, already-reduced cream can have 30% less calories and 40% less fat than conventional cream.
Chefs are discovering the many uses of this common ingredient—well beyond the standard vinaigrette or balsamic reduction. The acidic qualities of vinegars balance and brighten enhance the flavors of pickled vegetables, cocktails, soups, potato salads, sauces and gravies and more. James Beard award winner Jonathon Sawyer’s recent cookbook House of Vinegar suggests 80 recipes that incorporate the ingredient, from drinks to desserts.
For any kitchen that aspires to churn out consistently delicious dishes quickly and easily, these five workhorse ingredients are a great start.
This post is sponsored by Anchor Food Professionals